Down Sizing Your Life

The other day I had a conversation with a lady who is facing the decision of whether to leave her job and stay home with her children and whether her family can afford to live on just her husband’s salary. It is a very difficult decision to reduce your standard of living and learn to live on less, yet many people are facing this reality and for many it is not by their choice. There are so many companies that are cutting back and laying off people right now. But whether by choice or by necessity, the struggle to reduce the cost of living is the same.

It is actually very difficult to undo the financial tapestry we weave as our salary increases. We take on additional bills and payments, increase the size of our home, hire service people to mow the yard, clean the house, do our taxes. We buy bigger cars and houses with bigger payments and bigger insurance payments. Everything gets larger as our salary increases and it is really a challenge to extricate yourself from all of the things that you have come to deem “necessities”. But many times the challenge isn’t so much financial as it is emotional.

A friend of mine just went through a divorce and one of the biggest challenges that she faced as she has down sized her life was the resentment she felt in having to do it. Her sense of entitlement continually undermined the realities of her situation. She felt like she was being robbed that she couldn’t have the car she was used to. She resented the smaller home because her furniture wouldn’t fit. She HATED having to have a budget when she had been used to just buying whatever she wanted. And every bit of this emotional resistance made the process of down sizing so much more traumatic for her than it had to be.

The big challenge in this emotional minefield is to get a vision for your life on the other side and continually remind yourself of where you are going. For the lady considering quitting her job to stay home with her children, her vision statement might be something like, “My children are worth it. I am investing this effort and my income into their lives so that I can be with them.” So anytime she faces a difficult financial decision when down sizing, she reminds herself, “I can do without this large home because my children are worth it, and I am investing my income into their lives so that I can be with them.

For the woman going through the divorce, her vision statement might be, “This is my chance at a new beginning and I am not going to hold onto anything that might keep me in the despair of my past. I am going to embrace my new life, and move forward. There is a way through this and this is only the beginning.” So when she faces getting rid of her expensive car for a payment she can afford she reminds herself of her vision statement. “This is only the beginning, and I am going to embrace my new life and move forward.”

And for the man who faces layoffs at work and has to take a job at a lower income his statement may be, “Whatever it takes to provide for my family. This isn’t going backwards, it’s just life. I am going to embrace where we are and make the most of what we have. We are healthy, we love each other, and this is just a small part of the journey.”

In each of these statements, there is no indication of self pity, or resentment. It is an acceptance of where you are so that you can build from here and move forward. If you spend all of your energy resenting your present circumstances, you will miss what God has for you today. It is absolutely critical to let go of that resentment, denial, and sense of entitlement that cripples so many when they come to a major life change. God has an amazing plan for your life, and whatever has happened in your life He can work it for good. But one thing that can prevent Him from working in your life today, and that is if you stop living in today and choose to stay in yesterday and what “should” be.

So don’t look at down sizing as going backward. Choose to see it as simplifying your life. In this process of down sizing you will have to question everything that you currently spend money and it is an emotional process. But don’t let your emotions sabotage your financial future. Keep the vision for what you are doing in front of you and remember that this is only for a season. It won’t always be this hard and the decisions that you are making to reduce your cost of living and live within your means are going to ensure that there are only better days ahead.

I am going to be talking about more practical steps to down sizing in the days ahead, but I felt it was critical to start here. You can resent the process, or you can embrace it and go for it. But whether you are choosing the process or are in it out of necessity, it will be a much easier journey if you are not carrying the baggage of “what was” and just accept “what is” today.